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New Mecklenburg County Commission

by Kevin Baker, Atlanta, December 2018

 

Four new county commissioners were elected in Mecklenburg, North Carolina in November. The changes to the nine-member board come as the county gears up for the first property revaluation since 2011.

 

There are concerns that experience dealing with a major revaluation has been lost with the election of the new commissioners. “We have this revaluation and we have a lot of people (on the board) who have never been through a revaluation,” Commissioner Pat Cotham told the Charlotte Business Journal.

 

Past Mistakes

 

The last revaluation eight years ago caused a revolt by taxpayers. It led to the hiring of an outside company to assess the problems. Ultimately, the county refunded $100 million to property owners.

 

Officials do not want to repeat past mistakes. Mecklenburg created and filled 46 jobs to better prepare for property revaluations and boosted funding by $6.6 million.

 

“Our county assessor and his team have worked tirelessly over the past four years to ensure that this revaluation is flawless,” county manager Dena Diorio wrote.

 

Values and Tax Rates

 

Mecklenburg County’s current forecast anticipates the reval will produce a median value increase of 40% for residential and 75% for commercial property. However, higher assessments do not automatically produce higher tax bills. The other important part of the equation is the tax rate.

 

Commissioners set the property tax rate. There are three options they can take:

 

1.

Reduce the tax rate to offset higher assessed values

2.

Keep the rate the same to generate more money and fund expanded programs and services

3.

Raise the rate, as long as the amount doesn’t surpass the state limit of $1.50 per $100 valuation

 

For fiscal 2018, commissioners approved a tax rate increase of .75 cents, increasing rate to 82.32 cents per $100 valuation. It was the county’s first tax hike in five years.

 

Appeals

 

The Board of Equalization and Review hears valuation appeals on behalf of county commissioners. Commissioners select the three-member panels that hear and decide appeals.

 

Commissioners recently increased the equalization and review board to 20 people, up from 15, to handle the large caseload expected.

 

The assessment date is Jan 1 2019, but the assessor’s office is expected to issue the valuation notices as early as December 2018. There is a 30-day deadline to file an appeal. With the expected volume of appeals, there is a good chance that many appeals may not be resolved before the tax bills are issued on or about September 1, 2019. The full amount of the bill is due even if the property value is under appeal. A complete, well-documented appeal application filed as early as possible is the best way to avoid this situation.